Every now and then God stirs things up in my life, reminding me to be grateful. Today was one such day.
Due to my Ra, I have not been able to lay down for several weeks so have had to sleep sitting in a chair. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, THAT became so uncomfortable I couldn’t stand it, so I headed to the bedroom and was actually able to sleep an hour or so laying down! Mostly because of fatigue, but the pain wasn’t nearly as severe as it has been, so that was the first thing on my thankful list.
Randyman got up at 5 a.m., to load 300 bales of hay on a truck to bring home for the critters this winter. It’s been very hot lately and there was no one to help him. He did it anyway, then came home and unloaded it. It took him 13 hours. He did it because that’s the kind of guy he is. So I also have him to be thankful for...which I am everyday, because it is a total blessing to be married to him.
Around noon today, I ventured out to the corral for no particular reason. I saw Sushi trotting down the alleyway toward the dry corrals by herself. I thought that was really odd and couldn’t think of any reason Emma wouldn’t be with her. I hollered at Randyman who was unloading hay and he just shrugged his shoulders. I figured, well, she will come looking for her around feeding time, surely. She’s been really good about coming home at night.
The boss had headed to town and his truck broke down about 2 hours away. He called Randyman to come and help him, as Randy is the ranch mechanic and jack of all trades. I was home alone to feed the calves, goats, sheep and horses and milk again knowing Randyman wouldn’t make it home for hours and hours, likely after 10 at night.
I went out to feed early as I was concerned about EmmaLouMoo. She still wasn’t there. I decided to go find her in the big pasture she is in, which has some pretty rough terrain. I drove the 4 wheeler all over, through ditches and dry streams full of big rocks, and over hill and dale. I spent over an hour, with no Emma to be seen or heard. I went back and decided to take Cletus with me. He went sniffing and searching and we looked through all the willows and places that had not been accessible on a 4-wheeler. NO Emma. I got back on my quad and headed towards the old abandoned milkbarn. The field is level there and you could easily see a cow if she was out there. The grass on that side is about 3 1/2 ft tall, and not very edible, plus the ground is real boggy. I headed up there anyway, but I was worried about getting mired down in the mud and just as I was about to turn around and head back, I saw her...
Her little face was peeking up just below ground level. Her eyes were wide and expressive with both hope and terror. There is a long, deep trench, only the width of a back hoe bucket. It had been dug down deep until it seeped water, with some poplar tree branches set in last winter, in hopes they would root. They didn’t. But the trench filled with sucky mud. She was mired down almost to the top of her back. Her bag, her hips, her brisket were all sunk deep and she was unable to get out. I grabbed my lead-rope that I had brought with me and attached it to her halter. I thanked God I had left her halter on her. I hitched the rope around my hips and leaned into it, pulling and screaming for Emma to try and get out. It took awhile but with a lot of my pulling and her struggling she managed to get traction from the steady pressure on her head and she got out. She staggered forward and I watched with trepidation to see how serious her injuries were. Her entire bag, belly, hips, tail and brisket were black with mud. She was weak and it looked like she hadn’t eaten or taken water all day, so she must have fallen in early that morning. That would explain why Sushi looked like she had not eaten by noon. Had Sushi fallen in with her, she would have drowned as the mud was much deeper than she is tall.
I unhooked Em and went back to check on Sushi, knowing Emma would be worried about her. Sushi had left the corrals again to look for her mama. Unusual, but she was clearly hungry and afraid. Cletus and I went all around the pasture and the willows again looking for her, while Em made her way to the dry corral. I hoped they had met up and would be there so I could tend to Emma’s needs. As I drove up the lane, Em was heading back, in a panic. Sushi was not there. Emma was frantic and panting hard, moving as fast as she was able, in her weakened condition, out to the pasture to look for her lost baby. I followed her and watched sadly, as she croaked out her call. She had lost her voice. I assume she’d been crying for help most of the day and I had not heard her. She looked so pitiful. She stood in the midst of short grass under a tree because she couldn’t make it any further and her mournful cry was repeated over and over. I had turned off the quad and sat on it in the upper alley, waiting to see what would happen.My heart was breaking for her as the prayers of my heart continued winging their way to heaven.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something red off to the left where the alley turned and went down the hill. I glimpsed Sushi as she dove into the weeds. She had gone down there and hidden herself in the deep brush and grass. Emma was so weak, her voice couldn’t carry far enough for Sushi to hear her. I ran and grabbed Emma and had to DRAG her back towards the alley and corral.
My poor little cow acted heartbroken believing we had given up the search. I could only imagine how she felt. I sent Cletus down the alley and he found Sushi and followed her back up in the manner of a good LGD, without coercion, just encouragement. Em was still distraught, but Cletus and Sushi followed us all the way to Em’s corral. I tied Em up, washed the worst of the mud off with a hose and Sushi went to nursing, making up for the many meals she had missed throughout the day. When her belly was full and round and her little face was black and muddy from bumping the bag where I had not been able to get Em completely clean, I took Em to her hay feeder and left her there to fill up on the good alfalfa which Randyman had just brought home that day.
I took care of the other animals, fed leppies, locked the sheep in and got the goats milked and as I was bringing the last goat out, I could see Em’s sweet little muddy face looking through the window. I let her in and she quietly took her place in the stanchion. She didn’t seem much the worse for wear. I used up rag after rag cleaning her bag, and milked her out.
I thought about all the ways it could have been a different ending.
If Em had rolled over when she fell into the ditch, she would have drowned before we even knew she was missing. If she had been facing the opposite direction, I would never have been able to help her get out, plus it would have put her front end lower than her hips and she would have suffocated. If Sushi had fallen in, she would not have survived. If Sushi had stayed with Em, I would not have gone looking, assuming she just didn’t feel full enough to come in for milking and she would have likely died in the night. Em could easily have been seriously injured, breaking her pelvis, or a hip, or leg, or even her back. Actually, the chances were greater for her to not have survived, than to have turned out the way it did.
My nephew lost his dog to parvo this week. I have been keeping the Maremmas in until I could booster them, to give them an extra measure of safety. With them being absent on patrol the past few nights, the coyotes have moved in close again.I could hear them right by the barbed wire pasture fence. If Sushi had remained out in the pasture alone at night, she would probably not have survived the night. I'd have found her ravaged and destroyed by predators instead.
I looked at Em. She was happily lovin’ on Sushi. She seemed peaceful, content and grateful, perhaps even thanking her Creator and counting her blessings.
I know I sure am.
Sometimes we have to be reminded of how things really could be, to maintain a grateful heart.